Counting the Omer

People who have converted to Judaism often tell me about holiday overload. They go from celebrating a handful of holidays to almost a dozen. Yet, above and beyond the holidays we have certain practices, one of which I did not learn about until rabbinical school.
According to Jewish tradition, the upcoming festival of Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Oddly though, we find no clear link in the Bible between the Shavuot festival and the giving of the Torah.
When tragedy, illness and accidents occur, our worldview morphs immediately. Stability is shaken as reality turns upside down. The Omer says we must go slowly.
Right now, the Jewish community is finishing up its annual marking of days, as each night we count the Omer, the 49 days between the second night of Passover and the beginning of Shavuot. Immediately after, we'll mark another set of days, one with only despair and no celebration.
The week of yesod in the Counting of the Omer is an invitation to consider pulling down the veil. It's about penetrating to the core of who we are.
Just like a prism that refracts white (really invisible) light into seven colors, the Torah itself refracts the unknowable and invisible truth into a rainbow of possibilities.
The human experience is not always pretty. Sometimes it's very tragic and difficult. Lag BaOmer is a day of joy that stands out in a time of sadness. It is a day that six years ago we forced ourselves to leave our broken hearts behind and participate in The Great Parade.
The story of endurance and eternity is heartbreaking in the wake of the Boston Marathon. There are no satisfiable answers to why these things happen. Just a raging desire to find comfort, any kind of comfort, in the face of a ghastly tragedy.
Early yesterday, during my morning prayers, I came across an interesting passage in the Zohar -- the enigmatic, poetic, foundational opus of Jewish mysticism -- and soon, innumerable surprising connections were revealed.
There are golf courses in Israel. And lessons to be learned while playing them.
This is the time to sit with the anxiety, the ambiguity and the unknowability of our lives. This is the time to go down deep in to the deepest recesses of who we are, to find resources and riches we didn't know were there.
As we count each of the days of the sefira, we are meant to realign ourselves. The goal is to hold back what needs to be held back and push ourselves into those awkward uncomfortable places that ultimately make us into better people.
The Holocaust was brought about by the opposite of hesed, by malice and treatment of human beings with clinical cruelty for the purpose of demeaning, debasing and destroying. How do we face such a legacy?
Will we view life as some sort of diminishing, increasingly limiting count down to the end, or will we see life as opening to an unending fount of opportunity, hope and joy? The Omer tradition, linking Passover to Shavuot, gives us the answer.
The Omer need not be a time of sadness. The time between Passover and Shavuout can itself be transformational and full of hope.
In between these joyous mile-markers of past desert wanderings, even fewer modern Jews observe the Counting of the Omer, a
In his book Alternative to Futility, Elton Trueblood includes a chapter on discipline. He quotes Milton who said, "The history of every civilization rises and falls on the axel of discipline."
This year, Memorial Day poses an interesting conflict with the Jewish calendar as it overlaps directly with the holiday of Shavuot. The coincidence is not without some significance.
How did I remember that today is the Hebrew calendar date of my son's first birthday? I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that it was not by my own memory, but truly of divine intervention.
The wellspring rising from deep within the Mystery. The rock that supports, sustains and brings forth our lives.